The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, Ferreira Gullar articulates the position of the so-called Neoconcrete artists of Rio de Janeiro by tracing a shared history and points of divergence with the Concrete art movement. For Gullar, Concrete art begins in Brazil with the critic Mário Pedrosa who questioned “the more or less official Brazilian art, and paved the way for a renewal of our visual vocabulary.” Early artists to take up his call, such as Ivan Serpa to Almir Mavignier, had “decisive importance” to younger artists who encountered their work at the I Bienal de São Paulo in 1951. As disciples of Concretism formed groups in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Gullar notes that “the Concrete artists of Rio, although they were always in contact with one another, gave themselves to intuitive and differentiated inquiry, while those of São Paulo, from the beginning, tended toward a dogmatic position, culminating in a kind of systematization of processes and expressive values.” The differences between the groups were evident at the I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta (1956–57), and continued to grow.
Gullar goes on to compare the theoretical positions of the Concrete group, as defined by Waldemar Cordeiro, with what would be called the Neoconcrete group, as defined by himself. The defining characteristic of the Concrete artists, he writes, is a rational, “mechanistic” approach that avoids “experiential contamination”—“it is a purely mental art.” For Gullar, such works exploit “the geometrical possibilities of the eye,” but lack “any transcendent meaning,” which is the point of divergence between the groups. Neoconcretism, as exemplified by “the Paulista poets” Gullar discusses, thus sought new ways “to express the complex contemporary reality” beyond the logics of language. The Neoconcrete, he writes, “born of a need to express… the complex reality of modern man, denies the validity of scientific and positivist attitudes in art.” Expanding on this “a-dogmatic” search for direct, phenomenological modes of perception, he concludes that the defining characteristic of Neoconcretism is “to make expressive the geometric vocabulary of concrete art.”
As he notes in this essay, the critic [José Ribamar] Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016) was closely aligned with the founding of the Neoconcrete group of artists. After publishing his essay “Theory of the Non-Object” in the Sunday Supplement of the Jornal do Brasil on December 19-20, 1959, he became the movement’s main theoretician. This essay, an earlier version, was originally published in the Jornal do Brasil, for which he was a regular contributor, on July 18, 1959.
It is reproduced in the catalogue Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, which accompanied an exhibition organized in São Paulo by Aracy Amaral (b. 1930) and by Lygia Pape (1927–2004). It had a great impact in Brazil, and it led to a new reading of the meaning of the rationalist movements in the nation’s art. In 1977, the show was presented at the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, and later at the MAM-RJ (Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro).
[For complementary reading on this exhibition, see in the ICAA digital archive by Lygia Pape “Projeto construtivo brasileiro na arte” (doc. no. 1110680), and by Jorge Romero Brest “A arquitetura é a grande arte de nosso tempo—1948: Romero Brest em São Paulo” (doc. no. 1314972).
For more by Ferreira Gullar, see “Manifesto Neoconcreto” (doc. no. 1110328); “Do quadro ao não-objeto” (doc. no. 1091272); “Cor e estrutura-cor” (doc. no. 1091219); “A poesia neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315256); “Arte neoconcreta: uma experiência radical” (doc. no. 1315414); “Arte Concreta” (doc. no. 1315020); and “Da arte concreta à arte neoconcreta” (doc. no. 1315036), among others].